The 2010 National Humanities Medal and National Medal of Arts ceremony at the White House...with video
UPDATE: Berry talks about his White House visit
This afternoon, President Obama awarded the 2010 National Humanities Medal to Wendell Berry during an East Room ceremony. Berry, 76, was honored "for his achievements as a poet, novelist, farmer, and conservationist." The President and Berry whispered together as the President hung the gold medal around his neck, and then they warmly shook hands. (Above: President Obama awarding Berry the Medal)
Berry is a fifth generation family farmer from Kentucky, and a world renowned author of more than forty books that include poetry, essays, novels, as well as pathbreaking economic/philosophical examinations of rural communities. His work urges the use of citizen power to change both communities and the corporations that have dominance in America, a tenet First Lady Michelle Obama has based the Let's Move! campaign on.
Mrs. Obama sat in the audience in the front row as the President presented a total of ten National Humanities Medals and ten National Medals of Arts to a group of very distinguished honorees. During his remarks, President Obama introduced the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden as "the two most powerful people in the White House," and added that he'd gotten a bit of a tongue lashing for "going off program" and showing up early. (Above: The President and Mrs. Obama speak with honorees)
"I bulled my way through to go ahead and see the honorees before they came out here to sit down because these are extraordinary people," President Obama said.
Among the other honorees were jazz great Sonny Rollins, authors Joyce Carol Oates, Harper Lee, and Philip Roth, renowned pianist Van Cliburn, singer-composer James Taylor, musician-composer-producer Quincy Jones, sculptor Mark di Suvero and poet Donald Hall.
"One of the great joys of being President is getting a chance to pay tribute to the artists and authors, the poets and performers, who have touched our hearts and opened our minds -- or, in the case of Quincy Jones and James Taylor, set the mood," the President added, to laughter.
The President hailed great works of art as something that can inspire individuals and countries through hard times, and create change in civil societies.
"They speak to our condition and they affirm our desire for something more and something better," President Obama said. "Time and again, the tools of change, and of progress, of revolution, of ferment -- they’re not just pickaxes and hammers and screens and software, but they’ve also been brushes and pens and cameras and guitars."
The President noted his own affection for Sonny Rollins' work--"they were still vinyl, Sonny," and joked about the work of author Philip Roth. (At left, the President and Oates)
"How many young people have learned to think by reading the exploits of Portnoy and his complaints?" The President said, to more laughter.
After presenting each Medal, the President called for another round of applause for the honorees, then pointed the crowd to the reception that followed.
"Our Marine Band is very good and the food is pretty good around here too," the President said, before leaving the stage to take photos with the honorees.
Above: James Taylor stopped in to the press briefing room after the ceremony, and took a turn behind the podium, but didn't sing....
The full list of honorees, and how their accomplishments were announced during the ceremony:
The 2010 National Medal of Arts recipients:
Robert Brustein. The 2010 National Medal of Arts to Robert Brustein for his contributions to the American theatre as a critic, producer, playwright, and educator. As the founder of the Yale Repertory Theatre and the American Repertory Theatre and Institute for Advanced Theatre Training, and as the former theatre critic for The New Republic since 1959, Mr. Brustein has been a leading force in the develop of theatre and theatre artists in the United States.
Van Cliburn. The 2010 National Medal of Arts to Van Cliburn for his contributions as one of the greatest pianists in the history of music, and as a persuasive ambassador for American culture. Since his historic 1958 victory at the first International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, Mr. Cliburn has reached across political frontiers with the universal message of beautiful music.
Mark di Suvero. The 2010 National Medal of Arts to Mark di Suvero for his achievements as one of the most prominent American artists to emerge from the Abstract Expressionist era. Exhibited throughout the world, Mr. di Suvero’s exemplary sculptures depict a strong political and social vision, demonstrating the power of the arts to improve our world.
Donald Hall. The 2010 National Medal of Arts to Donald Hall for his extensive contributions to American poetry. Through an illustrious career and as a Poet Laureate of the United States from 2006 to 2007, Mr. Hall’s work has inspired Americans and enhanced the role of poetry in our national life.
Accepting for Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Ella Baff. The 2010 National Medal of Arts to Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival for contributions to the development of dance in the United States. As America’s longest running international dance festival, thousands of people of all ages from across the United States and the world have Jacob’s Pillow to thank for opening their horizons to dance.
Quincy Jones. The 2010 National Medal of Arts to Quincy Jones for his extraordinary contributions to American music as a musician, composer, record producer, and arranger. As a master inventor of musical hybrids, he has mixed pop, soul, hip-hop, jazz, classical, African, and Brazilian music into many dazzling fusions, traversing virtually every medium, including records, live performances, movies, and television.
Sonny Rollins. The 2010 National Medal of Arts to Sonny Rollins for his contributions to American jazz music. Widely recognized as one of the most important and influential jazz musicians of the post-bebop era, Mr. Rollins’ melodic sensibilities, playing style, and solos have delighted audiences and influenced generations of musicians for over 50 years.
James Taylor. The 2010 National Medal of Arts to James Taylor for his remarkable contributions to American music. His distinctive voice and masterful guitar playing are among the most recognized in popular music and his expansive catalogue of songs has had a profound influence on songwriters and music lovers from all walks of life.
The 2010 National Humanities Medal recipients:
Accepting for Daniel Aaron, Anna Mundow Aaron. The 2010 National Humanities Medal to Daniel Aaron for his contributions to American literature and culture. As the founding president of the Library of America, he has helped preserve our nation’s heritage by publishing America’s most significant writing.
Bernard Bailyn. The 2010 National Humanities Medal to Bernard Bailyn for illuminating our nation’s early history and pioneering the field of Atlantic history. Dr. Bailyn’s two Pulitzer Prize-winning works, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution and Voyagers to the West, have opened minds to the story of our country’s earliest days.
Accepting for Jacques Barzun, Marguerite Barzun. The 2010 National Humanities Medal to Jacques Barzun for his distinguished career as a scholar, educator, and public intellectual. One of the leaders in the field of cultural history, Dr. Barzun’s decades of teaching and dozens of books have engaged countless readers across our nation.
Wendell E. Berry. The 2010 National Humanities Medal to Wendell E. Berry for his achievements as a poet, novelist, farmer, and conservationist. The author of more than 40 books, Mr. Berry has spent his career exploring our relationship with the land and community.
Roberto González Echevarría. The 2010 National Humanities Medal to Roberto González Echevarría for his contributions to Spanish and Latin American literacy -- literary criticism. His path-breaking Myth and Archive: a Theory of Latin American Narrative is among the widely cited scholarly works in Hispanic literature.
Stanley Nider Katz. The 2010 National Humanities Medal to Stanley Nider Katz for a career devoted to fostering public support for the humanities. As president of the American Council of Learned Societies for more than a decade, he’s expanded the organization’s programs and helped forge ties among our libraries, museums and foundations.
Joyce Carol Oates. The 2010 National Humanities Medal to Joyce Carol Oates for her contributions to American letters. The author of more than 50 novels, as well as short stories, poetry and nonfiction, Ms. Oates has been honored with the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in the art of short story.
Arnold Rampersad. The 2010 National Humanities Medal to Arnold Rampersad for his work as a biographer and literary critic. His award-winning books have profiled W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Jackie Robinson and Ralph Ellison, and he has edited critical editions of the works of Richard Wright and Langston Hughes.
Philip Roth. The 2010 National Humanities Medal to Phillip Roth for his contributions to American letters. Mr. Roth is the author of 24 novels, including Portnoy’s Complaint and American Pastoral, which won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize, and his criticism has appeared in our leading literary journals.
Gordon Wood. The 2010 National Humanities Medal to Gordon Wood for scholarship that provides insight into the founding of our nation and the drafting of the United States Constitution. Dr. Wood is author and editor of 18 books, including The Radicalism of the American Revolution, for which he earned a Pulitzer Prize.
*White House video; photos via Reuters